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Mindscape, Inc. was an American video game developer and publisher based in Novato, California. Founded in March 1983, its most notable titles include Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Lego Island.

Mindscape, Inc.
IndustryVideo game industry
FoundedMarch 17, 1983; 36 years ago (1983-03-17)
Defunct2011 (2011)
Headquarters, Edit this on Wikidata


Early historyEdit

Mindscape logo from 1985.
Mindscape logo from 1994.
The 1996 Mindscape logo.

Mindscape began in 1983 as a software publisher in Northbrook, Illinois. Founded by English-born Roger M. Buoy, the company established its early roots developing educational software for the TI-99/4A and the Apple II. By 1984 it was owned by SFN Companies Inc. that established it as a publisher of educational titles developed by other companies while expanding its reach into the Atari 8-bit family and Commodore 64 home computers software market.[1]

In 1984 Mindscape worked closely with Commodore in developing some of the initial applications for the Commodore Amiga. The company participated in the 1985 release of the Amiga that featured Andy Warhol and Debbie Harry.

Under creative director Sandy Schneider, the company became one of the earliest publishers of software for the Macintosh, publishing the seminal Chris Crawford 1985 game Balance of Power. It also received accolades for its publishing of the innovative Apple Macintosh adventure games, the MacVentures, which were developed by ICOM Simulations, and included Déjà Vu, Uninvited, and Shadowgate. It also published several of the early Macromind products, namely Graphic Works and Comic Works.

By 1987 it reverted to be owned by Buoy jointly with SFN former CEO and chairman John Purcell; they expended their reach in the education software market by acquisition of competitors in that market.[2] It also released text adventures tied to famous authors and a controversial 1987 game from Tom Snyder Productions called Sub Mission. The latter required gamers to purchase a replacement disk if they lost the mission three times.

In 1988, Mindscape became a Nintendo licensee and published video games such as The Terminator for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Paperboy for both Nintendo's NES and Game Boy platforms. Paperboy becoming a huge hit worldwide selling over 2 million copies on the NES alone.

It branched further into entertainment software by becoming a Lucasfilm licensee, publishing the Indiana Jones computer games before they were taken in-house by Lucasfilm Games with the 1989 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

During the late 1980s, Mindscape was unique in the software entertainment arena by establishing a global network. Buoy opened offices around the world and installed seasoned managers to run them. By 1990, Mindscape had offices in Sydney, Australia; Chiba, Japan; Sussex, England; and Normandy, France.

In 1988 Mindscape became a public company raising $9.6 million. It was one of the first companies to have a successful IPO after the stock market crash of October 19, 1987.

Mindscape was famous for its Rock 'n Roll parties at Chicago's Summer Consumer Electronics Show (the trade show prior to E3) where it released its new products and entertained its customers.

Acquisition by ToolworksEdit

In 1990 Les Crane's The Software Toolworks acquired Mindscape, primarily for the Nintendo license.[3] Mindscape’s US operations were absorbed into Toolworks, retaining only a handful of Mindscape employees. Mindscape continued to operate in the UK and Australia as a product line of Toolworks.

The company held one last Summer Consumer Electronics Show parties where Dudley Moore introduced the Miracle Piano Teaching System, an electronic learning system for the piano. However, The Software Toolworks almost sank after it over-ordered the piano hardware for Miracle Piano Teaching System, was not able to sell through copies of the product very quickly, and was stuck with a large inventory. Roger Buoy left the company in 1992 to pursue other entrepreneurial activities.

Subsequent historyEdit

The company became involved in another round of mergers and headquarters moved to Novato, California, in Marin County north of San Francisco. It started out publishing software for Heath/Zenith personal computers. Early products for The Software Toolworks included Mychess and the C/80 C compiler for CP/M. The two most popular products were the very long-lived series Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing and the Chessmaster series of computer games. It is also known for its contribution in the development of the Lego Island PC game series.

In 1992, Mindscape created and released the isometric fantasy role-playing game Legend (known as The Four Crystals of Trazere in the United States) for MS-DOS, Amiga and Atari ST. Following some success worldwide, a sequel Worlds of Legend: Son of the Empire was released for MS-DOS and Amiga in 1993.

In 1993, The Software Toolworks developed Wing Commander for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System under the Mindscape brand in conjunction with Origin Systems at a time when The Software Toolworks was downsizing and struggling to survive. Sales from the game heavily exceeded expectations and the resulting revenue brought the company back from the brink (as evidenced by its share price which had fallen to $2 per share and was ultimately brought back up to $12 a share before the company was purchased).

Mindscape suffered losses of approximately $50 million during the 1996 calendar year.[4] During November 1996 Mindscape laid off 12 development staff as a cost cutting measure,[5] and in 1997, the internal development department was shut down entirely. Through an undisclosed deal with Electronic Arts UK, most of the development staff, and the game they were developing (which was close to completion) – Warhammer: Dark Omen – was moved to EA UK's offices in Guildford, Surrey, and released in early 1998.

Below is a timeline of events occurring from 1993 to 2011:

  • 1993: Purchases wargames publisher SSI and changes name to Mindscape.
  • 1994: Sold to Pearson PLC for $503 million.
  • 1998: Sold to The Learning Company for $150 million.[6] Mindscape also purchases PF Magic.
  • 1998: The Learning Company, along with all of its subsidiaries, including Mindscape, was sold to Mattel for around US$3.6 billion[7], causing a strong impact to Mattel's stock price and the ouster of its CEO. Mattel subsequently sells Mindscape to Gore Technology Group for just a share of the profits that Gores could obtain by selling the properties.[8]
  • 2001: Mindscape is made a separate company in following the purchase of the international division of The Learning Company from the Gore Technology Group by Jean-Pierre Nordman.
  • 2002: Montparnasse Multimedia is purchased by Mindscape.
  • 2005: Mindscape purchases the studio Coktel Vision – owners of the brands ADI and Adiboo – from Vivendi Universal Games
  • 2006: Ubisoft continues to publish Chessmaster titles. Broderbund is the new publisher of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing.
  • 2011: Mindscape has shut down their last studio and retreats from the gaming industry.[9]
  • 2011: Game publisher Anuman Interactive acquired the Montparnasse Multimédia and Alsyd catalogues, as well as the Horse Star license, all formerly operated by Mindscape.[10]

Software publishedEdit

The following is a list of software programs with their year that were published by the company.

Sprout logo from Tinka's Mazes for the Commodore 64


  1. ^ "Mindscape computer software for the Commodore 64 and Atari computers" (PDF). 1985. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  2. ^ Winter, Christine (March 13, 1987). "Mindscape to buy software group". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  3. ^ "Software Toolworks Acquires Mindscape". Computer Gaming World. January 1990. p. 64. Retrieved November 15, 2013.
  4. ^ "So Who's Getting Rich?". Next Generation. No. 30. Imagine Media. June 1997. p. 43.
  5. ^ "Layoffs Hit Mindscape". GamePro. No. 101. IDG. February 1997. pp. 26–27.
  6. ^ "Pearson loses Mindscape - Mar. 6, 1998".
  7. ^ "Is the Educational Games Industry Falling Into the Same Trap It Did 20 Years Ago?".
  8. ^ "Dragons' Den".
  9. ^ Cifaldi, Frank. "Report: Mindscape Leaves Video Game Industry After Nearly 30 Years".
  10. ^ "Anuman Interactive acquires Mindscape licences". October 24, 2011.
  11. ^ "Tink Tonk". Retrieved April 11, 2019. INTRODUCING SPROUT™ SOFTWARE. GAMES THAT TEACH... We've also got the experience of Mercer Mayer, who has written or illustrated 80 children's books.
  12. ^ "list_games_atari-400-800-xl-xe-angelsoft-inc_developer". Retrieved April 11, 2019.
  13. ^ "Road Runner for Amstrad CPC, Arcade, Atari 2600, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, NES, ZX Spectrum". MobyGames. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
  14. ^ Teaching And Learning Primary Science With Ict. New York, NY: The Editors and Contributors. 2006. ISBN 0335 21894 6. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  15. ^ Kee, Jay (March 1994). "Darth Vader vs. The Terminator". Computer Gaming World. pp. 90–94.
  16. ^ Metal Marines
  17. ^ "CyberSpeed". Next Generation. No. 18. Imagine Media. June 1996. p. 122.